Not wanting to say goodbye quite yet to Easter, we will keep the holiday going with this adorable picture from Saturday’s Easter Egg hunt in the McConnell neighborhood. This trio of young ladies in Easter finery enjoyed the hunt for the toddler-and-under crowd on the McConnell Green. Older kids later galloped through a nearby park (see a previous post with a photo of that hunt by clicking here), cleaning it of eggs before you could shout, “There’s the Easter Bunny!” And the bunny did indeed make an appearance.
Even aside from bunnies and babies, we have remarked before in this column about the tremendous variety of interesting people who call Davidson home. Today Around Davidson highlights a remarkable couple at The Pines, Anna and David Pai, and a Boy Scout mom, English Griggs, who creates special memories for cubs in Pack 58. There are also a few Noteworthy Notes about area events.
MEET DAVID AND ANNA PAI
Entering the cottage at The Pines where David and Anna Pai live, one is immediately struck by the eight-panel embroidered silk scroll that adorns their living room wall. It’s a classical Chinese treatise on a historical military campaign, a gift to David’s father, who was a famous general in Nationalist China, and a sign of the extraordinary family backgrounds united in this remarkable couple.
Last summer David and Anna relocated to Davidson from New Jersey, finding it made sense to live closer to family and certainly to escape winters in the Northeast. David and Anna were both born in China. David is the son of the late Gen. Pai Chung-Hsi, chief of staff to the Chinese Nationalist leader Chiang Kai Shek in the 1920s during a campaign known as the “Northern Expedition.” During WWII, Gen. Pai was the Deputy Chief of the General Staff responsible for operations and training of all China’s armed forces.
David first came to the States when he entered college at Virginia Military Institute in Lexington, Va. There he met Anna, a student at neighboring Sweet Briar College, who had reluctantly agreed to attend a mixer for foreign students. (Anna had emigrated to the United States with her family as a four year old and by the time of her college years hardly considered herself a “foreign student!”)
Anna also has a famous family background. Her paternal grandfather, Chao Er Shun, was Viceroy of Manchuria during the Qing Dynasty, China’s last. After the Chinese Revolution of 1911, Anna’s maternal grandfather, Chang Tso Lin, controlled Manchuria as its warlord until his assassination by the Japanese in 1928. Chang’s eldest son , Chang Hsueh Liang,took his father’s place, known in the history books as the Young Marshall who took Chiang Kai Shek captive in 1936 (in what is known as “the Xi’an Incident”) to try to convince him to form a united front with the Communists to fight the invading Japanese army.
Interestingly, Gen. Pai and the Young Marshall came close to crossing paths. “My father and her uncle had cable exchanges at the end of the Northern Expedition,” David noted.
Here in the States, David pursued his work as an engineer and ultimately became CEO of Foster Wheeler Development Corp., the research and development subsidiary of the New Jersey-based Foster Wheeler. Anna, meanwhile, joined the faculty of Montclair State University as a professor of biology with a specialty in genetics and embryology. The Pais have two sons and four grandchildren: Ben and his wife, Susan Scott Pai, live in Charlotte with daughter, Leanna (16), and son, Keith (12); Mike and his wife, Katherine Noonan Pai, live in Portland, OR, with their sons, Aidan (3) and Nathan (1).
Anna and David were able to take their children and older grandchildren to China in 2005 to visit former family compounds and official residences of both sides of the family, several of which have now become museums.
“Oh my goodness, we were treated like royalty!” Anna exclaimed, adding that the grandchildren were most impressed by the bullet holes preserved in the wall at the resort where the Xi’an Incident occurred. The trip helped the younger generations better understand their family background and Chinese heritage.
Active in retirement, the Pais enjoy bridge and golf, as well as auditing courses at Davidson College. At the urging of a Montclair State colleague, Anna took up photography some 20 years ago and has earned numerous awards with her focus mainly on wildlife and nature photography. Recently, she has also had a science fiction novel (about genetic cloning), “Choices,” published under the pseudonym A.C. White by Dorrance Publishers. (Hint, the “Pai” surname means “white!”)
If the opportunity presents itself to sit down and visit with this delightful couple, you will be the richer for it. Welcome to Davidson, Anna and David.
SCOUTING AROUND WITH ENGLISH GRIGGS
Remember the Valentine photo Around Davidson ran two months ago of twins Jared and Tyler Smith proudly holding their banners commemorating awards earned during Cub Scout years? (Click here to see it again.) Wanting to know more about these marvelous wall hangings brought your correspondent to the home of English Griggs and her family.
English, a Winthrop College grad, and her husband, Mitch (a Clemson “tiger”), first came to Davidson in 1982. They knew each other growing up in Chesterfield, SC, so were glad when Mitch’s job with Duke Energy located them in NC – not too far from family. Handy with needle and thread from an early age at her grandmother’s knee and having a good eye for design, English owned the Wallpaper Wonders store in Cornelius until 1998, sewing draperies, slipcovers, pillows and anything else a customer needed.
In 1999, Mitch’s job took the family to Colorado for seven years. During this time, English volunteered as a den leader for their older son, Camden (now a 10th grader at Woodlawn). Wanting to create a memory for the boys in her den when they crossed over into boy scouting, she chose a felt banner attached to a wood panel with the name and awards for each boy sewed on it.
Returning to Davidson four years ago, the family built a home just off East Rocky River Road with a separate large work space for English’s four sewing machines, shelves for materials and hanging shoe bags to store her many spools of thread.
Jumping right back into scouting, she offered to make the commemorative banners for cubs in Pack 58, especially since their younger son, Collin (a 7th grader at Pine Lake Prep), crossed over two years ago.
However, now English has a plan to make her gift to the new boy scouts also a gift to help others. She asks a nominal amount for the banners, putting every dollar into her annual Charlotte Avon Walk of 39 miles to support breast cancer research. Her goal of donating $1800 each October for her “walk” is reached by the money earned from banners and gifts from family and friends. English would like the money to come solely from sewing the scout banners. Right now, Pack 58 is her only customer, with a cross over ceremony planned for April 17 at the Davidson College lake campus. English welcomes other packs in the area to contact her (email@example.com) if they would like their cubs to have this beautiful handiwork in observation of their crossing over into Boy Scouting.
Does English have time for anything else? She loves needlepoint, cooking, yard work, gardening and volunteering in her boys’ schools. How lucky we are to have this energetic, talented young mother in our midst!
Spring calendars are already overfilled but just a note about upcoming events you do not want to miss.
This Saturday from 4:30-6:30 p.m., there will be a community wide celebration of the Nepal Orphans Home started in 2005 by Michael Hess, brother of Davidson College Professor Peter Hess. Open to the public, the event will take place at the DCPC Congregation House. Dress is casual. Food, merriment, fellowship and an outstanding Silent Auction await attendees. Be sure to stop by. Read more in our April 3 news item.
The following Saturday ushers in a wonderful Arts Weekend with events on the Village Green and a Gallery Crawl on Friday evening, April 16. Be sure to watch this website for further information.
Before heading to The Green for art on Saturday, the 17th, a visit to the North Mecklenburg High School Horticulture Sale of spring plants is a must. The event will be held at the school and run from 8 a.m. until noon. As always, come early or the pickins’ will be slim!
April 22, Thursday, is the 6th Annual Dick Sanderson Driving 4 Life Golf Tournament and Dinner. Sorry to say that the golf tournament is already sold out but plenty of room for you at the River Run Country Club hosting the dinner and dance starting at 6:30 p.m. Mark your calendars today.
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Have news for Around Davidson? Write to Brenda Barger at firstname.lastname@example.org.